Biosphere 2: A Model City for Sustainability (Audio included)

This was a freelance piece about the Model City sustainability project at Biosphere 2, for Tucson Weekly.

Photograph by John de Dios
Photograph by John de Dios

Like a city out of science fiction, Biosphere 2’s spaceship-like campus is a testing site for new solar technology.

In the coming months, photovoltaic panels for collecting solar energy will line the hills surrounding Biosphere 2 like a ring of power-generating armor. This is just part of a project led by Nathan Allen, sustainability coordinator and staff scientist, to turn the campus into an energy efficient model for cities.

The idea of a Model City is to use solar panels to power Biosphere 2’s 40-acre campus and use water-harvesting techniques to create what would be an example of an environmentally sound municipality with efficient energy generation and use.

The idea of a Model City is to use solar panels and water-harvesting techniques to create a prototype of how environmentally efficient technology can help reduce energy use and costs for communities that switch to sustainable technology.

“We got really excited when we heard about this idea of looking at energy use across something as large as the Biosphere,” said Leslie Tolbert, the senior vice president of research for the University of Arizona. “There’s a whole little city out there, so why not take advantage of the opportunity to do a scale of research that you can’t do anywhere else.”

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